Volunteers help build Veterans Village in NC
By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: November 2, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — Hammers clinked across nails, buzz saws whirled and dozens of volunteers gathered Friday to help build the first veteran community under the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity.
Known as "Veterans Village," the seven home cul-de-sac is located in the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity's development, Oakridge Estates, at the corner of Bunce Road and Old Bunce Road.
Tichella Britton is one of the veterans who was selected to move into one of the homes.
Britton retired from the Army in 2017, after 15 years of service.
Apartments Britton rented were impacted by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and Hurricane Florence in September 2017.
"The first one I was staying in (was) an apartment off of Murchison Road," Britton said. "The whole apartment complex got flooded. Me and my kids, we had to swim out. They were sending rescue boats and stuff over there. And then the second one the floor plan of the house got flooded."
At 37, Britton will now become a first-time homeowner.
"To say that you're finally owning something, it feels amazing and it's like I want to be able to leave something to my kids," Britton said. "You can't leave something to your kids if you're renting. You can't leave a rented house to your kids, but if something happens to you, you can leave a home to your kids ... y'all have somewhere (for) memories and to spend time with each other."
She and her three children – ages 16, 13 and 11 – are excited.
"It's a blessing to have people in our community who actually care and are helping," Britton said.
And she said she's glad to know her neighbors will be veterans, too.
"This is the rest of my life here now, so it's amazing," she said, as a smile stretched across her face Friday.
The idea for Veterans Village came from Tracy Coffin, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, said Brandon Price, advocacy and compliance officer for Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity.
After 25 years in the Army, Coffin joined Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity as a project manager last year.
"A lot of times what we don't see a lot of is what happens to our military members when they leave the service, and we have far too many homeless veterans," Price said. "Tracy has done a lot of research and a lot of energy spent into putting this together so that we can create a community for veterans."
Coffin said she heard about the need in the community, and asked officials with the Habitat International organization about having a veteran build program locally.
"I thought it would be a nice project to try to give back to our veteran community here at Fort Bragg," she said.
Helping speed up the construction process for the community were volunteers as part of a 24-hour build that started Friday and will continue through Saturday morning.
Many of those volunteers "just happen to be," veterans themselves or are military connected, Coffin said.
Among the group of volunteers picking up hammers, nail guns and saws on Friday was about 13 volunteers from Womack Army Medical Center's urology department, which included Catherine Rix, Yoland Rayner, Raffaella Derosa and Maj. Steve Overholser.
"Urologists, we form long-term bonds with our patients who end up becoming veterans, so knowing that we're going to be able to help them in more than one way and more than just providing care means a lot to us," Overholser said. "We care a lot about the veteran community, and this is a great way for us to be able to help."
Randy Wilson was also part of the Womack urologist "team," of volunteers.
Wilson retired from Womack in 1995, after 22 years of service in the Army and continued to work at the hospital as a Department of Defense employee for another 22 years until July.
"This is one of the things I said I was going to do when I retired," Wilson said. "One vet should not leave another vet behind."
A couple of other volunteers involved in the 24-hour build are through Fort Bragg's Home Builders Institute.
John Pomelow is currently a construction site supervisor for Habitat for Humanity but is familiar with the Home Builders Institute.
During the last year of his 12 years in the Army, Pomelow went through the course that provided him with construction skills as he prepared the transition out of the military.
"What got me hooked on residential construction was the HBI program," Pomelow said. "The program I was part of, they have construction trades training military people exiting the Army, basically trying to provide training for trades. So you have a trade when you get out of the Army."
Pomelow helped oversee volunteers, who Price thanked Friday.
"The seeds that you're sowing today may seem very small to a few of you guys, but it is unbelievably monstrous what you guys are doing out here today," Price told the volunteers.
Coffin said the first veterans will move into their homes Thursday.
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